No. 20 Iowa set for Big Ten Quarterfinals


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It’s all coming down to this for the No. 20 Iowa field-hockey team. Win or it’s over.

Because of the Hawkeyes’ regular-season record, it’s virtually impossible for the Iowa to appear in its third-straight NCAA Tournament if it doesn’t bring the Big Ten title back to Iowa City.

However, with that notion in the back of their mind, Iowa is looking to take it one game at a time.

“The thing is, everybody on our team knows that that’s a fact, and we’re going to have to win the tournament to [get in],” senior Niki Schultheis said. “It’s not the No. 1 thing we’re thinking about.

Our philosophy always has been taking it one game at a time, and it’s going to be the same thing this weekend.

“Michigan is first — that game has to be a win, and then we’ll go from there.”

The Big Ten Tournament slated to start at 10 a.m. today for the Hawkeyes (11-7, 2-4), who will face off with No. 18 Michigan on the campus of Ohio State.

The 2013 tournament’s first matchup will feature the top-two scorers in the Big Ten. Michigan’s Rachel Mack comes into the tournament after edging out Hawkeye Natalie Cafone 48-45 in terms of points and netting 2 more goals than Cafone, 21-19.

However, true to her style, Cafone passed the credit to her team and played down the matchup.

“I think it’s going to be a good game; I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” the Fairfield, N.J. native said. “Even though on paper it looks like I have all those goals, obviously, they wouldn’t occur if it wasn’t for the team.”

Cafone and Mack play with contrasting styles, the Iowa sophomore’s speed allows her to create opportunities, while the Michigan senior is strong on the ball.

Outside of the two prolific scorers, Iowa will rely on experience against the Wolverines (12-7, 4-2). The teams met on Oct. 5, and Michigan won the matchup, 3-2.

In that game, Iowa jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, getting goals from Stephanie Norlander and Cafone in the first 7:14 of the contest. However, Michigan’s offense prevailed, scoring 3 unanswered goals to cement the win.

“That kind of lights a fire underneath us — we’re so ready to play against them,” Schultheis said. “We just want to redeem ourselves. That game did not go how we wanted it to go, so I think it’s just an extra motivation.”

Head coach Tracey Griesbaum has similar sentiments.

“It’s not too far in the past that we can draw from it,” the 14-year head coach said. “We kind of remember how it felt to have a 2-goal lead and then not play up to our potential in the second half for sure. It’ll be good to play them on a neutral field. It’s motivating for our staff and for our team, just to have another shot at them.”

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